Yucca Mountain

Yucca Mountain, the Nevada-based, scientifically flawed and politically unjust proposed high-level radioactive waste repository has now been canceled. However, pro-nuclear forces in Congress have not abandoned Yucca and funding is still allocated to the project.



Beyond Nuclear meets NRC's "Nuke Waste Con Game" DGEIS public comment deadline

Environmental coalition members from the Crabshell Alliance, Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Campaign, NIRS, PSR, NEIS, and Public Citizen "just say NO!" at the NRC HQ nuke waste con game public comment meeting on 11/14 in Rockville, MD. Photo credit David Martin and Erica Grey.(The wise cancellation by the Obama administration of the proposal to dump 63,000 metric tons of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel -- and another 7,000 metric tons of DOE high-level radioactive waste -- at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, laid bare the false confidence of NRC in the eventual opening of a repository "when needed" in the U.S. This was a key factor in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that NRC must prepare an EIS under NEPA regarding the risks of generating and storing irradiated nuclear fuel. The court made explicit that NRC's "mere hope" that a repository will open eventually is not good enough, and ruled that NRC must consider the possibility that a repository will never open. In fact, military wastes have been piling up since 1942, and commercial wastes since 1957, and we still don't even know what to do with the first cupful!)

A special thank you to all those who took action, as urged in Beyond Nuclear's weekly email bulletins, and submitted comments in writing to NRC, or testified orally at public meetings. The final count is not in yet, but it's safe to say many hundreds -- if not thousands -- of high-quality comments were submitted by the Dec. 20th deadline.

In addition to its involvement in environmental coalition efforts, Beyond Nuclear also submitted its own public comments to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) re: its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) deadline on Dec. 20th. Beyond Nuclear's Radioactive Waste Watchdog, Kevin Kamps, submitted comments, as well as supporting documents (Exhibits: A to E; F to I; and J to O).

Kay Drey, a Beyond Nuclear board of directors member based in St. Louis, MO, also submitted comments. Kay is also the author of the numerous pamphlets listed below, and the inspiration behind the Dec. 2-3, 2012 "Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference held at the U. of Chicago mentioned below.

Paul Gunter, Director of Beyond Nuclear's Reactor Oversight Project, also submitted comments, telling the inspiring story of "at least 92 of 137 towns adopted identical language 'to oppose the burial, storage, transportation and production of high-level radioactive waste' in New Hampshire" in 1986. In a tremendous grassroots democracy victory, town warrant articles were passed across "the Granite State" -- the month before Chernobyl exploded and 25 years before Fukushima Daiichi melted down -- in opposition to the Department of Energy's proposal to destroy seven historic New Hampshire towns in order to build a national geologic repository for high-level radioactive waste beneath them.

In Nov. 2007, amidst the presidential primary campaign then raging in New Hampshire, Beyond Nuclear published a fact sheet entitled "A New Hampshire High-Level Radioactive Waste Dump?" In the section on "What's at Stake?", Beyond Nuclear reported:

"Several towns, including Hillsborough (frequently spelled Hillsboro), New Hampshire sit atop a large granite formation identified as the “Cardigan Pluton.” The rock body is part of the DOE’s Crystalline Rock Repository Project to site a second national nuclear waste repository. If selected, the populations declining a federal buyout would be subject to relocation and their property seized by eminent domain for the deep geological repository. This dubious distinction persists despite many geological and hydrological flaws in the candidate site including rock fractures, high amounts of rainfall, broad uncertainty about groundwater movement through the rock body and migration of radioactivity from nuclear waste into aquifers for drinking and agricultural irrigation supplies for large populations.  

In addition to the environmental impacts, federal confiscation would adversely impact the deep historical significance of the area: the nearby town of Washington, the first town in the U.S. to be named after our first president, just after the Revolutionary War; numerous preserved stone arch masonry bridges; the Franklin Pierce Homestead, the home of the 14th President of the United States; the founding congregation and church of the Seventh Day Adventist denomination are examples. There is also the natural beauty of the area: forested hills, scenic lakes and river-ways. Much of this, along with picturesque, historic towns and villages would cease to exist if a national high-level radioactive waste dump opened in New Hampshire."

In fact, as the Beyond Nuclear backgrounder warned, in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration in late 2008, Energy Secretary Bodman issued a Report on the Need for a Second Repository that indeed listed both New Hampshire and Maine (and most of the rest of the Lower 48) on the target list.  (The map on page 12 showed this.)                 

Re: NRC's nuke waste con game deadline, Kevin also submitted the following additional comments: regarding nuclear industry whistleblower Oscar Shirani's revelations on Holtec dry cask Quality Assurance violations, and NRC dry cask storage inspector Dr. Ross Landsman's support for Shirani; a cover letter and backgrounder on dry cask storage problems; a cover letter, and the Statement of Principles for Safeguarding Nuclear Waste at Reactors, in support of Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS), signed by hundreds of environmental groups representing all 50 states; a cover letter, and the Beyond Nuclear fact sheet "Catastrophic Risks of GE BWR Mark I High-Level Radioactive Waste Storage Pools"; a cover letter, and Beyond Nuclear pamphlet "Routine Radioactive Releases from U.S. Nuclear Power Plants," as well as a chart, prepared by Russell Hoffman, showing into which particular organs specific radioactive contaminants lodge to cause harm in the human body; a cover letter, packet of materials from "A Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference, and Beyond Nuclear pamphlet of the same title; a cover letter, and assorted humorous placards, prepared by NEIS for a "nuke waste con game" of "nuclear bingo" at NRC's public comment meeting in Oak Brook, IL; a cover letter, and Beyond Nuclear pamphlets "Dirty, Dangerous, and Expensive," as well as "Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing = Weapons Proliferation"; a cover letter, and sheet prepared by NEIS entitled "It All Boils Down To -- Do We Trust the NRC?".

In addition, Kevin had earlier submitted oral comments at a number of NRC public meetings:

Rockville, MD NRC HQ call-in public comment meeting, Dec. 9th (see NRC's transcript, including Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear's testimony at transcript pages 30-34, and again at transcript pages 60-62).

Perrysburg, OH NRC public comment meeting, Dec. 2nd:

Kevin made points site-specific to Great Lakes reactors, including to Palisades in MI and to Davis-Besse near Perrysburg, from minute 3:00 to 8:37 on a video recording of the public meeting, filmed by Kathy Barnes of Don't Waste MI (Part 4). (Kathy coordinates the Don't Waste MI Facebook page.)

(See the NRC transcript of the meeting, including Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear's comments from pages 41 to 45 of the transcript.)

NRC HQ (Rockville, MD) public comment meeting, Nov. 14th:

See the transcript from the meeting, including Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear's remarks from page 102-107.

Oak Brook, IL public comment meeting, Nov. 12th:

See the transcript from this public comment meeting, including Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear's remarks at transcript pages 50 to 54.

NRC HQ public comment meeting, Rockville, MD, Oct. 1, 2013:

See the transcript of the meeting, including Kevin Kamps of Beyond Nuclear's testimony at pages 37-41 of the transcript.


Environmental coalition meets NRC's "Nuclear Waste Confidence" DGEIS public comment deadline

Environmental coalition attorney Diane Curran

(The wise cancellation by the Obama administration of the proposal to dump 63,000 metric tons of commercial irradiated nuclear fuel -- and another 7,000 metric tons of DOE high-level radioactive waste -- at Yucca Mountain in Nevada laid bare the false confidence of NRC in the eventual opening of a repository "when needed" in the U.S. This was a key factor in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling that NRC must prepare an EIS under NEPA regarding the risks of generating and storing irradiated nuclear fuel. The court made explicit that NRC's "mere hope" that a repository will open eventually is not good enough, and ruled that NRC must consider the possibility that a repository will never open. In fact, military wastes have been piling up since 1942, and commercial wastes since 1957, and we still don't even know what to do with the first cupful!)

An environmental coalition of nearly three dozen groups, including Beyond Nuclear, has submitted comments on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) "Nuclear Waste Confidence" Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS). The coalition is represented by a team of attorneys, including Diane Curran (photo, left) of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg, and Eisenberg, LLP, Washington, D.C.; Mindy Goldstein, Director, and Jillian Kysor, Fellow, Turner Environmental Law Clinic, Emory University, Atlanta, GA; and Phillip Musegaas, Hudson River Program Director, and Deborah Brancato, Staff Attorney, Riverkeeper, Ossining, NY.

The coalition is also represented by a team of expert witnesses, including Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, Takoma Park, MD; David Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists, Chattanooga, TN; Dr. Gordon Thompson, Executive Director, Institute for Resource and Security Studies, Cambridge, MA; and Dr. Mark Cooper, Senior Research Fellow for Economic Analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School, South Royalton, VT.

The environmental coalition's comments, as well as its expert witnesses' declarations, have been posted on the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) website, as well as at the bottom of a press release featuring the work of Dr. Cooper on the economic costs of irradiated nuclear fuel management. The coalition's comment and expert witness declarations are also posted at the NIRS website.

Curran, on behalf of three environmental groups (Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Riverkeeper, and SACE), in alliance with Natural Resource Defense Council, as well as four state attorneys general (CT, NJ, NY, and VT) won a landmark legal victory on June 8, 2012. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that NRC had to carry out an environmental impact statement on its "Nuclear Waste Confidence" policy and rule, including the on-site storage risks of irradiated nuclear fuel in pools and dry casks. The Dec. 20th public comment deadline on the DGEIS is a part of that court-ordered process.


Expert to NRC: Hidden costs of reactor waste storage & disposal make nuclear power less attractive than wind, solar, efficiency

Mark Cooper of Vermont Law SchoolOn Thurs., Dec. 19th at 11 AM Eastern, Diane Curran and Mark Cooper (photo, left), attorney and expert witness, respectively, representing a coalition of dozens of environmental groups, including Beyond Nuclear, will hold a press conference entitled: EXPERT TO TELL NRC THAT HIDDEN COSTS OF REACTOR WASTE STORAGE & DISPOSAL MAKES NUCLEAR POWER LESS ATTRACTIVE THAN WIND, SOLAR, AND MORE ENERGY EFFICIENCY; Do High Costs of Nuclear Now Make Licensing and Re-Licensing Indefensible in Terms of the Economics?; Comments to NRC From Economist Mark Cooper State Federal Agency Must Consider Full Cost of Nuclear Waste Storage and Disposal.  Cooper serves at the Vermont Law School. Curran serves at Harmon Curran Speilberg + Eisenberg LLP in Washington, D.C. See the Hastings Group's press advisory, with instructions on how to listen-in to the press conference, either live in real time, or to the audio recording afterwards.


NRC nuke waste con game: final written public comment submissions re: DGEIS due Friday, Dec. 20th!

Environmental coalition members from the Crabshell Alliance, Sierra Club Nuclear-Free Campaign, NIRS, PSR, NEIS, and Public Citizen "just say NO!" at the NRC HQ nuke waste con game public comment meeting on 11/14 in Rockville, MD. Photo credit David Martin and Erica Grey.

Thanks to all who submitted oral comments to NRC at the call-in on 12/9, the final public meeting re: NRC's bogus nuke waste con game Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS).

Please continue to submit your public comments to NRC via email, webform, fax, and/or snail mail. You can submit as many public comments as you want, between now and the final public comment deadline (Friday, Dec. 20th).

Sample comments, which you can use to help you write your own, have been provided by Beyond Nuclear and NIRS, as well as NEIS.

Additional ideas for public comments can be found in the reports back from the field hearings, at the link below. Key comments that need to be made again and again: It's time to stop making high-level radioactive waste! For that which already exists, the environmental consensus is to empty the pools into hardened on-site storage, where appropriate -- requiring a significant upgrade in dry cask storage safety, security, and environmental protection. More.


Senate Mobile Chernobyl/Parking Lot Dump bill delayed, but vigilance still needed!

The Mobile Chernobyl mock nuke waste cask, a full size replica of a truck shipping container, shown in front of the State Capitol in Jefferson City, MO during a cross-country educational tourAs reported by Hannah Northey of E&E on Nov. 22nd ("Senate panel to take up repository bill next month"), U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the Chair and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, had threatened to bring S. 1240, the so-called "Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013," up for a committee vote in December 2013. Dec. 19th was floated as a date for a committee mark up. But in recent days, it has become known that any action has been postponed into next year.

However, vigilance is still required. Thanks to all of you who have contacted your U.S. Senators to express opposition to S. 1240, the "Nuclear Waste Administration Act." If you haven't contacted your two U.S. Senators yet, please do so now. You can call them via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

If you have contacted your U.S. Senators already, thank you! But there is more you can do. Please continue to let them know you oppose this bill, and urge everyone you know to do the same.

Check to see if your U.S. Senator is on the ENR Committee. If so, consider organizing your friends and colleagues, and request to meet with your Senator during their holiday break back home. Your meeting with them could make a huge difference on their vote re: S. 1240! If a meeting with your Senator is refused, follow up with a request to meet with your Senator's staff on this issue.

If neither of your Senators serve on the ENR Committee, you can still urge them to contact their colleagues who do. Your Senators should urge their Senate colleagues on the ENR Committee to vote against S. 1240, in order to protect the interests of constituents in your state, including yourself!

S. 1240 is intentionally vague about Yucca Mountain, Nevada being targeted for centralized interim storage, and/or the permanent repository. For this reason, all those opposed to the Yucca dump should also be opposed to S. 1240!

See below for more background information.


Along with Wyden and Murkowski, U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Chair and Ranking Member on the Senate Subcommittee on Energy and Water Appropriations, are co-sponsors of S. 1240. Critics have dubbed the "Gang of 4" U.S. Senators' proposed legislation the "Mobile Chernobyl/Parking Lot Dump" bill. It would represent a huge giveaway to the already filthy rich nuclear power industry, and coup for its lobbyists, if they get away with the radiologically-risky, multi-billion dollar boondoggle.

Beyond Nuclear provided extensive background on the dangerous bill last June, when it was first introduced. Despite calling for public comments on their draft legislation, the "Gang of 4" effectively ignored environmental and public interest concerns registered by the thousands. Shamefully, the bill, as introduced, was actually significantly worse than the initial "discussion draft," an indication of nuclear lobbyists' shady "ways and means" behind closed doors on Capitol Hill!

S. 1240 further revved its engines on July 30th, at an ENR Committee hearing.

It is urgent that you contact your two U.S. Senators, and urge that they put the brakes on this "Mobile Chernobyl/Parking Lot Dump" bill, and stop it dead in its tracks. They can be contacted via the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

If enacted, it would launch large numbers of risky high-level radioactive waste trucks, trains, and/or barges. The unprecedented shipping campaign would accomplish exactly nothing in terms of protecting public health, safety, and the environment. Quite to the contrary, it would bring high-level radioactive waste, in shipping containers vulnerable to severe accidents or terrorist attacks, through the heart of major metropolitan areas, such as Chicago. For more information on high-level radioactive waste transport risks, see NIRS's "Mobile Chernobyl/Fukushima Freeways" website section (such as the HLRW barges on waterways -- the Great Lakes, rivers, sea coasts -- sub-section, dated Sept. 28, 2004, which could now be dubbed "Floating Fukushimas"!).

Scores of environmental groups across the country have consistently opposed centralized interim storage, "de-linked" from progress on a permanent deep geological repository, for just such reasons, for a long time. It clearly risks the "temporary" parking lot dumps becoming de facto permanent, if and when the next deep geological repository is cancelled, just as the Yucca Mountain dump was (wisely so, given the geological unsuitability of the Nevada site, the environmental injustice of dumping high-level radioactive waste on Western Shoshone Indian treaty lands, etc.).

S. 1240 would create a radioactive waste shell game on the roads, rails, and waterways of many/most states, all in an effort to remove a major liability, cost, and PR headache from nuclear utilities' ledgers, and transfer them squarely onto the backs of U.S. taxpayers.

The recent federal court decision, ending DOE's collection of the meager 1/10th of a cent per kilowatt-hour fee on nuclear electricity ratepayers' bills, means that once the money currently remaining in the Nuclear Waste Fund is spent, there will be no more. Thus, those costs will eventually fall entirely on federal taxpayers. These costs could easily mount into the tens, and even hundreds, of billions of dollars over time. No other industry, besides nuclear power, enjoys such public subsidies.

The bill seeks to open a "pilot consolidated interim storage site" by 2021. HLRW from "orphaned" or "stranded" sites -- permanently closed atomic reactors -- would be given priority in the shipping queue. The supposed justification for this is to return decommissioned nuclear power plant sites to productive, economic use. This ignores the fact that those sites are still radioactively contaminated, despite so-called "clean up." It also ignores community groups who oppose the immoral idea of dumping their community's problems onto someone else.

The top targets for the "pilot" parking lot dump include: already contaminated and/or radiologically-burdened U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sites, such as Savannah River Site (SRS), SC; Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), NM; and Idaho National Lab (INL); Native American lands, such as the tiny Skull Valley Goshutes Indian Reservation in UT, or a number of unnamed reservations which the Nuclear Energy Institute has claimed, for several years, to be in secretive negotiations with; and/or operating nuclear power plant sites, such as the co-located Exelon Dresden nuclear power plant/GE-Hitachi independent spent fuel storage pool, just southwest of Chicago, already "home" to 3,000 metric tons of high-level radioactive waste.

The bill largely guts any notion of "consent-based" siting, by allowing for potential interim storage sites to be characterized, and even declared suitable, before "consent" is even sought from the community. The momentum already built, coupled with lucrative, promised incentives, would make it very difficult for communities of color, or those in dire economic straits, to resist. The nuclear power establishment in industry and government has repeatedly violated environmental justice in this way for decades, and appears poised to do so yet again!

S. 1240 also expresses a preference that the "pilot" interim storage site become the full-scale interim storage site by 2025, and even then the permanent deep geologic repository (DGR, or dumpsite) by 2048. No limit to how much HLRW could be rushed to the interim storage site(s), nor how much HLRW could be dumped at the first DGR, could mean that a single site would become the "nuclear sacrifice area" for the entire country, as was previously attempted at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. In fact, there are no safeguards in the legislation that would protect Yucca from again being targeted. And, a supposedly "interim storage" site appears all-too-likely to become a de facto permanent "disposal" site, whether that be by abandonment on the surface, or burial underground. This risk is made all the worse by the bill's lack of a requirement for any progress on permanent disposal during the first 10 years of interim storage facility operations.

What S. 1240 also does not call for is Hardened On-Site Storage (HOSS), which is what hundreds of environmental and public interest groups representing all 50 states have called for, time and time again, for well over a decade now. In addition, more and more groups are saying "STOP MAKING IT!", as at the recent U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) nuke waste con game public comment meetings around the country.

To the contrary, Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) has attempted to justify her legislative proposals as essential for paving the way for SMRs (so-called Small Modular Reactors) to be built in the U.S. (to the tune of billions of dollars of federal taxpayer expense, in the form of RDD -- research, development, and demonstration -- subsidies, the subcommittee chair for such appropriations forgot to mention).

As reported by Beyond Nuclear on Jan. 16, 2013:

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, has praised the Obama administration's call for centralized interim storage. Revealingly, she expressed her support in the context of a pro-nuclear expansion agenda: "Delaying the creation of a long-term policy on nuclear waste would simply make the problems more complex and dangerous -- particularly with the development of a generation of new small modular reactors." (emphasis added)

In fact, so too did President Obama's Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future. If the name of the commission wasn't bad enough, its behavior, beginning in 2010, and final report in 2012, made clear that the top priority for "solving the high-level radioactive waste problem" was to pave the way for a nuclear power expansion. Despite claiming to be open and welcoming of public input, the Blue Ribbon Commission summarily ignored the thousands of public comments submitted over its two year existence. While the Blue Ribbon Commission was forced to listen to oral comments made at its numerous meetings around the country, it was later learned that written comments had not even been read before the BRC submitted its final report to Congress. Even worse, the website archive of those written comments, and even the transcripts and recordings of the public meetings themselves, became inaccessible on the BRC's abandoned website, making all that hard-won information unobtainable by the public. The BRC website was restored when the problem was called to DOE's attention by environmental watchdogs, but under the telling name "Cyber Cemetery."

The Senate ENR Committee has behaved similarly. In early 2013, it called for public input on its "Discussion Draft" of S. 1240. 2,500 comments were submitted, including by Beyond Nuclear, but were summarily ignored. The final draft of S. 1240 was worse than the discussion draft! Further changes for the worse can be expected in S. 1240, due to the corrupting influence of nuclear industry lobbyists and their campaign contributions.